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U.Va. Batten School’s Founding Dean, Harry Harding, Stepping Down

Harry Harding, the first dean of the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, will step down July 1 at the end of his five-year term. Beginning with a handful of borrowed faculty in temporary offices, Harding led the hiring of the school's first cadre of faculty and administrators to keep pace with a fourfold increase in enrollment as the school moved into its permanent home in Garrett Hall and established graduate, undergraduate and dual-degree programs.

“Managing that growth seamlessly and effectively is one of Harry’s greatest successes as dean,” U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan said. “It’s always a challenge for the first dean of a new school to realize the founding benefactor’s vision for the school. Frank Batten envisioned a school of public policy focused intently on leadership. Harry has secured that vision by establishing a school at the heart of Grounds that brings together students and faculty from across the University to address 21st-century public policy challenges guided by cutting-edge research on leadership.”

Sullivan added, “This all builds squarely on Jefferson’s own founding vision that the University would create and disseminate useful knowledge that would provide the educational foundation for our nation’s future leaders.”

Explaining his decision not to seek reappointment, Harding said, “I have spent 15 of the last 18 years in full-time administrative work. I would not have given up those opportunities for the world. But looking ahead, I would like to be more engaged in teaching, writing and service than has been possible over the last several years. I would also like to spend far more time in Asia with my family who live there.”

Harding will remain on the U.Va. faculty and retain both his appointment in the Batten School and his affiliation with the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics. He plans to write a book on leadership, building on Batten courses he has taught on the subject. He also intends to resume teaching and writing on his longstanding academic specialty: China’s foreign policy and relations with the United States.

A national search for a new dean will begin immediately, chaired by University Professor David Breneman, Newton and Rita Meyers Professor in Economics of Education, a former dean of U.Va.’s Curry School of Education and former senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Batten School.

“Under the inventive and energetic leadership of Dean Harry Harding, the Batten School has emerged as one of the most dynamic public policy schools in the nation,” said Henry Brady, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, which is widely considered one of the preeminent public policy schools in the nation.

“In the space of just five years, Batten has established innovative academic programs for both undergraduate and graduate students, launched cutting-edge research centers and appointed a group of highly talented new faculty members,” he added. “The Batten School’s investment in psychology as a key complement to economics and political science as the disciplinary foundation of the Master of Public Policy degree has attracted broad attention and is truly exciting. Perhaps most distinctive of all is the way that Batten is combining the analytical rigor of a public policy education with an emphasis on teaching students the leadership and advocacy skills they need to tackle the domestic and global challenges of the 21st century. Few new schools have accomplished so much, so quickly.”

The Batten School was created in 2007 by a $100 million gift – the largest in University history – from the late Frank Batten Sr., former president and chief executive of Landmark Communications whose holdings have included several daily newspapers and the Weather Channel.

“Under Dean Harding’s leadership, the Batten School has established a strong presence in the commonwealth and Washington,” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said. “It is known for its dedication to public service, serious scholarship and engagement on the crucial issues of our time.”

When Harding was hired in 2009, the Batten School had a skeleton staff housed in temporary quarters at Varsity Hall, and had not yet appointed any of its own faculty. Harding oversaw the initial staffing of the school, which now has 14 full-time faculty complemented by 16 affiliated faculty from across the university.

In addition to political scientists and economists, the Batten faculty includes historians, social psychologists and scholars of ethics and law – a broader range of academic disciplines than is common among public policy schools, Harding noted.

In pace with the faculty expansion, enrollment has grown fourfold under Harding, from 53 students in 2009 to 230 today. Garrett Hall, the school’s newly renovated home located just off the Lawn, opened in August 2011 and is already nearly full, Harding said.

While Batten’s rapid expansion has created a web of partnerships across Grounds, the school has managed to retain a tight-knit sense of community in Garrett Hall as a “Batten family,” U.Va. Executive Vice President and Provost John Simon said.

“To the extent I helped maintain a spirit of collegiality across Grounds, and a sense of community here, that is a major part of my legacy,” Harding agreed.

While some public policy schools still debate whether leadership can be taught, the Batten School was founded in the belief that it can be, Harding said. That belief underlies the school’s unofficial motto: “Policy is everywhere. Lead from anywhere.”

Frank Batten Sr.’s widow, Jane Batten, remains actively involved in the school.

“Harry Harding has provided outstanding guidance in building a rock-solid foundation for the teaching of leadership in all aspects of public life,” she said. “You truly can ‘lead from anywhere’ and that is what the Batten School, under Dean Harding, is doing superbly.”

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